By Marilyn Stewart, NOBTS Communications
NEW ORLEANS – New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley challenged the school’s 2016 graduates to rely on the certainty of God’s love as they bring hope to a hurting world.
“His love will never loosen its grip on you,” Kelley said at the May 14 graduation ceremony. “Whatever you go through, remember the love of God always triumphs in the end.”
Kelley acknowledged some graduates may have turned down other, more lucrative career paths to answer God’s call to theological education and ministry, and but he said they must focus on “the love of God” that drew them to seminary in the first place.
Consider the “unspeakable sacrifice” of Christ, Kelley said, adding that while other religions have altars and sacrifices of incense, grain or even animals, only the Christian faith has “God himself as the sacrifice.”
Going further, Kelley said the cross of Christ, the “centerpiece of the New Testament,” won salvation and eternal life for any person who comes seeking forgiveness, regardless of past sin and failure.
“That is good news,” Kelley said. “God must love us because of what God did for us.”
Continuing, Kelley caused an obvious moment of serious reflection, several seconds of silence, when he asked, “Is it worth it? Is God’s love worth the path you have taken?”
Using an analogy about a young child who tumbles down the stairs, Kelley said a parent, at that moment, picks up and comforts the child rather than giving the child a lecture about center of gravity and tipping points.
While the explanation is true, it is “useless,” Kelley said, adding that what’s important to a hurting child is the parent’s reassurance of his love.
“When you know that you are in the grip of an all-powerful God … a God who knows your name and loves you and demonstrated his love for you at great cost and sacrifice, it makes all the difference in the world,” Kelley said.
Kelley pointed to Romans 8:28 to say that believers are never separated from God’s care.
“You may be attacked, but you will be delivered. You may be wounded, but you will be healed. You may be persecuted, but you will not be forsaken. You may be alone, but you will not be abandoned. You may be knocked down, but you will never be knocked out,” Kelley said.
Because no life is ever beyond redemption, Kelley said believers must remember what God has done for them and be faithful to tell others that God’s love will change lives.
“This is who you are – bearers of hope,” Kelley said. “Spend the rest of your life, dear friends, remembering when you came to the foot of the cross and the love of God changed you.”
The 2016 NOBTS and Leavell College class included 241 graduates.
NOBTS conferred 138 graduate degrees and certificates, including four doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees, four doctor of educational ministry degrees, and fourteen doctor of ministry degrees (D.Min.) during the May 14 ceremony. Among the doctor of ministry recipients, Andrew Anderson, a squadron chaplain with the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division, earned the degree for his project: “Developing the Skill of Life Application Preaching for Soldier Spiritual Resilience at Warrior Chapel, Baghdad, Iraq.”
An additional 103 graduates received Leavell College certificates and degrees in a separate commencement service May 13.